11 Interview Hell

Things are pretty desperate. I don't think I am employable with the drink problem. I’ve spent much of the sixteen thousand pounds clearing credit card debts and paying the mortgage. I also feel completely responsible for Jenny who is supportive but doesn’t realise the amount I am drinking or the hole I am in.

All my recent experience is as a Product Manager but I don’t really enjoy this work. Product Management is technical but it is also marketing - it requires higher levels of sociability than I naturally possess. I’d really like to go back to programming and working more closely with computers. However, it is now two years since I did any real programming work and my skills are now two years out of date.

My Product Manager's cv looks good. All those made redundant by Philips' were put up in a hotel for a week and a bunch of recruitment consultants gave us career advice and help with cv preparation. It looks as if I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life in marketing. I scan the relevant job pages in the computer press. A recruitment agency is advertising for a Unix Product Manager. It’s a good fit with my old Philips’ job so I give the agency a call and send in my cv. They are very interested and want to interview me immediately. Their client is a big computer manufacturer. It’s a prestigious company, a prestigious job and a prestigious salary.

An interview is arranged at the agent's offices in North West London for the Monday afternoon of the following week. I work out the timings and find that I need to leave Colchester fairly early in the morning to get the train to London. Then it’s a longish tube ride followed by a taxi to their office. The interview is at 2pm. Everything is in place except for one thing - my calculation is that my hip flask won’t hold enough vodka to keep me calm for the whole journey. I decide to take a half bottle of vodka in my overcoat pocket just to be sure that I have enough alcohol to stave off the shakes.

The trip begins well enough. My skin has deteriorated due to the alcohol abuse of the last few years and I have now grown a short beard so that I don’t have to shave. But I am well turned out in my newly pressed suit and well-polished shoes. I have a few nips of the neat vodka on the train. I am not planning to drink the whole bottle before the interview - I will just drink what I need. I will then throw away what is left in the bottle before I reach the agent’s offices. My overriding priority is to be calm - interviews are bad enough without symptoms of alcohol withdrawal creating more panic.

I have had very few interviews during my ten years at Philips but we did practice them on the redundancy course and I am hopeful of giving a good performance. I should arrive in plenty of time feeling relaxed and calm, having drunk the absolute minimum of alcohol to keep me functioning.

Then disaster strikes - the train is held up between Chelmsford and London for over half an hour. The power lines are down or there are leaves on the line or something. I don’t own a mobile phone so I can’t ring the agent. I can probably still make the interview on time but my stress level is rising. So is my vodka intake.

In London, I hurry for the tube. My pulse is racing and I am beginning to sweat. More nips of vodka. I am drinking more than I estimated I would need. On the tube ride I am constantly looking at my watch and hoping the underground train would go faster. Finally we are at my stop. It’s 1-30pm. I could still just make the appointment if only I can find a taxi quickly. I hail one with its yellow ‘Taxi’ light glowing brightly indicating that it’s available for hire.

I climb aboard and give the driver the address. The driver doesn't know this area well and we make several wrong turns. He gets out his A to Z. I notice that I have now nearly finished the half bottle of vodka and am feeling a little bit woozy. Suddenly I see the agent’s office but the driver can’t get to it because of the one-way system. The vodka bottle is empty. I get out of the taxi, pay the driver and run for the office. I am twenty minutes late. As I run I look for a bin where I can throw the empty bottle of vodka. I can’t find one. I give up looking and put the empty bottle back into my overcoat pocket.

In the office I meet the agent and smile. He takes my overcoat and hangs it on a coat-stand in reception. He leads me into a meeting room with a circular table. He begins his questions and I give appropriate responses. Things are going well but I must smell of alcohol. My performance is reasonable - he is non-committal but friendly. He says that they’ll get back to me. I try to look interested and keen.

Back in reception he pulls my overcoat from the coat-stand but as he does so he fumbles and drops it. The empty bottle of vodka bounces out of its hiding place in the coat’s pocket and into full view. I retrieve both items, look at him and shrug. It is now obvious that I have just drunk half a bottle of vodka. As I leave he shakes my hand but they never get in touch. Who would blame them?

Desperately Seeking Sex & Sobriety - Copyright Paul Pisces 2002-2004

(A Cautionary Tale of Sex Tourism, Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitution & Suicide)